Akwa Ibom-Malaysia Partnership: Set To Revamp Oil Palm Sub Sector
24 Apr 2010
It will be recalled that in the 60s, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, itself being the major producer and exporter of palm produce. This position has so far been lost sequel to the high profile earnings from crude oil in the 70s. Nigeria actually lost its leading position as the main producer and exporter of palm produce to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
It is in realization of this fact that the Akwa Ibom State Government through the instrumentality of the state Ministry of Agriculture recently took a bold step towards the reactivation of the ailing oil palm sub-sector. This, the government hopes to achieve as it recently organized a stakeholders forum held at the Civil Service Auditorium, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo.
Akwa Ibom State has been known to have the greatest concentration of oil palm on the West Coast of Africa, which until the discovery of crude oil has been the main driving force of the state’s economy. The strategic importance of this informed government’s intervention programmes like the community plantation development scheme in which the government encouraged communities, clans and individuals to own lands and embark upon large scale plantations for maximum benefit.
During the period in question, oil palm plantations were given high premium with communities, individuals and cooperative societies embarking on their cultivation. Government itself did not pay lip service in this direction as it embarked on palm estates and establishment of palm mills for processing of the produce. But the reverse became the case with the advent of oil in which the oil palm sub sector became ignored with very little production available hitherto.
Therefore, the partnership of Akwa Ibom State Government with Agrinexus International of Malaysia to bring back the good old days of oil palm production in the state is a sine qua non. Declaring open the stakeholders forum, the state governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio observed that it is a determined effort to develop Akwa Ibom moribund palm industries to become the hub for revitalizing of oil palm business in the region. The governor, who was represented by the state commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof. Etok Ekanem, said that the government seeks to regain the lost glory in oil palm production with the injection of the Malaysian experience.
The governor announced that as part of efforts to improve the agricultural sub-sector in the state, approval of N1 billion loans to farmers had been concluded. He stated that the funds will be made available to farmers after the commissioner of finance might have completed the signing of irrevocable order of payment, and that the funds have been lodged with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc. He also stated that government is determined to develop agriculture in the state as the state is receiving support of a Vietnamese firm in the commercial production of the crops.
The team leader, Agrinexus International Malaysia, Mr. Magarantnam Montajauby, in a remark at the forum noted that the firm was determined to assist Akwa Ibom in revamping its oil palm sub-sector to an international standard. He recalled that the Malaysian government came to Abak Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom to obtain oil palm seedlings where they used it to develop their economy, and expressed the hope that the Malaysia-Akwa Ibom partnership would work as he solicited for sustained cooperation.
Speaking, the president, National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria, Elder E. Bassey, assured that farmers in the state would take advantage of the partnership to develop their farms. He noted that although emphasis had been laid on small-scale oil palm production, it was time that farmers begin to cultivate on a large scale for more benefits.
Also speaking, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State branch, Chief Michael Udo Akpan, expressed gratitude to the state governor for thinking positively towards the development of the oil palm industry, maintaining that farmers were prepared to work together for successful implementation of the technology in the state.
Speaker after the speaker lauded the effort of the state governor in this direction and prayed for the successful implementation of the Malaysia-Akwa Ibom partnership. One of such speakers, Rtd. Air Marshal Nsikak Eduok, a large scale farmer said that crude oil wells might dry up in future, hence the necessity of farmers and governments to invest heavily in agriculture. Air Marshal Eduok urged Akwa Ibom people not to pay lip service any longer to farming, but to utilize all available land for cultivation, especially oil palm that has a lot of potentials. He however mentioned the problem of land preparation and implored the Malaysian experts to provide necessary techniques on the best practices for improved productivity.
The Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Civil Service Commission, Elder J. Obot, in his comments extolled the state government for charting a new course in oil palm production, which had been yearning for more attention. He however recalled that oil palm proceeds was used to fund the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the 60s, but neglected because of oil boom. Elder Obot therefore expressed the optimism that the deliberation will berth with new methods to be applied in the production of oil palm in the state.